VOLUN-TOLD or ELSE by the PTO Power Parents

How would you feel or what would you do if parents that hold the PTO power and the PTO purse strings proposed that parents would be required to volunteer a certain number of hours in order for their student to qualify, not receive, but just qualify for a PTO sponsored scholarship?

How would you feel if your award winning, nationally recognized school district was proudly one of the most diverse in the area, not only demographically but that the socioeconomic make-up of each child varied from family to family, city to city, suburb to suburb, and this volunteer requirement could potentially be forced upon these working families?

How would you feel if 47% of your school district’s student population receives free or reduced lunch and this volunteer requirement again could be forced upon the families of these kids that need the scholarships the most?

Here is what certain power parents that rule the PTO at the high school are proposing: in order for high school students to qualify for PTO sponsored scholarships, parents will be required to volunteer 10 hours per year per student only within PTO sponsored events, and volunteering must include working concession stands. This calculates to a total of 40 hours over four years, if a family has 2 children that would be 80 hours, etc. This may not sound like a lot of hours, but there are factors that need to be considered. Read on . . .

Upon hearing this proposal and the concerns from other parents, as a new parent at the high school, I sent an email to the president and treasurer of the PTO asking for clarification regarding this pending requirement for PTO sponsored scholarships.

Please keep in mind that I sent my email to the published addresses listed on the high school PTO website, these published emails are the officers’ personal email accounts. In my email, I asked for clarification as to what volunteer activities would qualify for the scholarships. I asked for the rationale in requiring parents to volunteer the 10 hours per year per student in order for students to qualify for PTO scholarships. I asked if working families and/or families with multiple high school students were taken into consideration. I asked if working the concession stand for a sport was a mandatory requirement and what about those families that do not have a student participating in a sport. I asked if this requirement/initiative was put to a vote of the PTO families. I asked for a current copy of the PTO Bylaws. And what was the response from these power parents?

The reply or lack thereof from the PTO President was, well, not really a reply, but more like avoidance.  I was told that the issue would be discussed at an upcoming meeting and she ended the response with, “In the future, please send all PTO related correspondence through the PTO email.” However, again, if you go onto the HS PTO website you will find that the email address she is referring to is NOT listed on this website, again only the personal email addresses of the PTO officers.

I promptly responded to her email, utilizing her personal email address copying the PTO email that she provided but is not published.  I also informed this power parent that the PTO website does NOT list the PTO email account only personal email accounts. I then made a formal request for information and repeated my questions. The power parents, I am so not surprised by this, have not returned my formal request sent to the PTO email as I was instructed to contact. Hmm . . this then begs the question what are they hiding if they cannot or will not provide information on an initiative that could potentially be detrimental to many of our school families?

The response or lack thereof, the overall proposal and complete disregard of the socioeconomic make-up of students that really need these scholarships reminded me of a quote by historian, politician and writer, Sir John Dalberg-Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This saying came to my mind, instantaneously, when I heard what these power parents were proposing.

Here is something that was quite ironic, soon thereafter I received an email from the HS PTO asking for volunteers and at the very end of this call for volunteers they state “ALL profits from PTO Concessions go right back to the KIDS!  ALL in the form of grants, student incentives, All Night Senior Party, Principal’s Discretionary Fund, Pattonville Education Foundation, college scholarships, and more!”  Hmm . . . but what about that volunteer requirement? All profits go back to the kids? Define ALL? Which kids? Here are these same power parents that want to require parents to volunteer in order for these profits to back to the kids. This seems very contradictory to what they are proposing to mandate upon parents.

I’ve been serving on parent teacher organizations since my children were in kindergarten, that’s 10 years of service. It is my understanding that the mission and goals of parent teacher organizations is to support the students, to provide for the students, especially those that need the most help. I fail to see how mandating parents to volunteer 10 hours per year per child over a 4 year period as being conducive to helping students who probably need that scholarship money the most.

Looking at the socioeconomic make-up of our school district’s families, of our students:  there are some that live in motels; there are some of single parent homes; there are some where a non-parental member of the family is raising them; there are some that are in foster care; there are some that are at or below the poverty line; there are some where their parents work multiple jobs just to keep the lights on, a roof over their heads, food on the table; there are some where their only hot meals are breakfast and lunch at school – Monday thru Friday. What about them? Who is advocating for them? Who is supporting them? I sincerely hope these parents in power are looking at the socioeconomic and demographic bigger picture that make up the families of our district and not punishing kids because their parents have to choose work over selling nachos at a football game. Here is a NEWS FLASH power parents, not every student in our district lives on a cul-du-sac with two working parents and a house with a picket fence.

I am unsure as to the monetary amounts of these PTO sponsored scholarships, however, a small amount can make a huge difference to a student looking to attend college or trade school (every penny counts in achieving higher education). It could buy books, a laptop, contribute to tuition. What about these students? Why keep much needed funds out of the hands of the kids that the organization should be sponsoring the most if the organization is there for ALL of the students?

Lastly, I just do not understand why these parents in power are adverse to a dialogue with a parent concerned that the needs of the entire student population be met and students should not be penalized for having working families. Again, could they consider moving from their tunnel vision to the bigger picture or is it about flexing the power they believe their parent positions hold?

Thank you power parents for not responding to my emails. Had you just responded to my emails, I would not have such a hot topic to write about. Word of advice – respond to email inquiries.

Here’s my last NEWSFLASH – Scholarships should be based on merit or need or citizenship or a combination thereof, not based on a parent being VOLUN-TOLD or ELSE.

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About Today, Tomorrow & Mom Forever

I am the proud mom of two beautiful, empathetic and highly intelligent children. On a daily basis, they rock my world. My philosophy, as a parent, I have one opportunity to do right by my children. My passion, to provide them with a loving and nurturing environment where compassion, passion and education are the building blocks to life. As parents, we are our children's advocates, therefore, united, we are one voice for our children. I write from the heart coupled with facts and research. Life is short, too short to get caught up in drama. To quote my hero, Eleanor Roosevelt, super mom and advocate: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.”
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